Hunt Smarter: Use Optics, Elevation To Find Elk, Deer

OUTDOORS UNDER THE RIM

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The Arizona big-game hunting seasons are in full swing with rifle elk hunts coming next in most northern units while whitetail deer hunts will be going on in most southern units. Preseason scouting will improve the odds of filling that tag with a trophy animal, as well as meat in the freezer.

If you are interested in improving your odds of connecting with an animal, here are a couple of tips that might help. Be willing to hike to those obvious high points that will give you a vantage of a lot of deer or elk country.

This elevation change might be as little as 100 feet or as much as 1,000 feet, depending on the terrain you want see.

Over the years, the proven successful hunters will use this tactic in spotting game. Get to that high point which very likely will take a hike with a flashlight to be in position when daylight occurs.

First light should open up a panorama of canyons and hillsides that will take time in searching out the game. Since deer and elk are very active at this time of the morning, they will tend to be moving, which improves your odds of seeing the game animal. In brush country, like the area around Payson under the Rim, the entire animal will seldom be in view. Horizontal gray shapes always demand a more critical look when glassing for deer. A shiny branch may actually be the tip of an antler glistening in the morning sun. Vertical gray sticks could actually be the legs of a whitetail in a brush thicket. The key is to look at details and expect only to see a part of an animal.

Once you have picked one hillside apart, then you might go over the same territory again. I have picked up a lot of game on the second search of a hillside or canyon because of the heavy cover in which deer and elk tend to live.

After one area has been glassed thoroughly, then take the next area of a ridge or canyon and repeat the same procedure by making a mental note of a grid of the area. A common plan by many successful hunters is to glass left to right and from the top to the bottom. Be slow and methodical in looking through your optics. Tripod mounted field glasses or a spotting scope make this procedure easier to accomplish.

If you want to improve your chances of filling a big-game tag, hunt smarter. Let your optics do the walking after you have made that flashlight hike to a ridgeline point. Good luck hunting in God's creation.

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